||IMF Top Ten
||GDP per head at PPP
of US in 2014
Houses of Parliament
from the South Bank
||% of GDP
The Perfect Theory
Pedro G. Ferreira
Tate Britain, London
2015-11-25 — 2016-04-10
2015 November 27
George Osborne wants to turn the UK into the
most prosperous major economy in the world. According to the IMF,
the UK is #6 among the "top ten" major economies (excluding small
states such as Switzerland and Singapore). Since 1980, the UK has
overtaken Italy, and the IMF forecasts the UK will overtake France
by 2020. This depends on rising British productivity.
fiscal deficit is expected to turn into a surplus by 2020. With net
foreign borrowing forecast at 2.1% of GDP in 2021, the UK private
sector must go into a deficit of 3.3% of GDP. Household gross debt
would rise to 163% of income by 2021. This is almost as high as the
peak of 168% in 2008. The UK will not become the most prosperous
major economy in the world.
Partners Against Daesh
Jean-Yves Le Drian
France and the UK have celebrated the
fifth anniversary of a historic commitment. The Lancaster House
treaty affirms that there can be no threat to one of our countries
that is not a threat to the other. It is a promise that France and
the UK will continue tackling their shared security challenges
shoulder to shoulder.
Like France, the UK is working to
defeat Daesh. Over Syria, British aircraft are supporting the
coalition with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. It is
now crucial to strike Daesh in Syria.
Daesh may have established several cells
in Europe. A million refugees have made Europeans vulnerable. Daesh
can exploit this.
Former Iraqi military intelligence agency
colonel Haji Bakr managed the strategic expansion of Daesh. Now
Daesh is dug in and air strikes alone will not root it out.
Western troops could only launch a ground offensive with Russian
agreement. If the West sided with Assad, all the rebels would side
The United States is stymied. In Syria, its
Kurdish ally is the enemy of NATO ally Turkey. In Iraq, militias
backed by Iran are enemies of both Daesh and America.
pursues realpolitik. To defeat them, we must do the same.
2015 November 26
Re: Autumn Statement
Osborne's starting points remain unchanged
and questionable. He insists, above all, that the UK should run an
overall fiscal surplus in "normal times". In other words, the
government should not borrow to invest, however much higher are the
expected returns than the cost of borrowing. It is impossible to
understand why such a rule makes sense.
AR Debt repayments are hostage to changing global fortunes.
Crisis or war can make debt burdens onerous. Also, the temptation
for government to pay off troublesome opponents or special interests
by incurring new debt is evidently irresistible. If times are good,
the opportunity cost of zero debt can be high. But the private
sector can step in.
2015 November 25
The Autumn Statement I gave today delivers
on the promise we made to the British people that we would put their
security first by:
• Taking the difficult decisions to
live within our means and bring our debts down,
• Defending our country's interests
abroad and keeping our citizens safe at home.
Review builds on that with:
• Full funding for the Five Year
Forward View the NHS put forward
• The biggest real terms increase
to the basic State Pension in 15 years
• A doubling of the housing budget
to over £2 billion a year
• The phasing out entirely of the
local government grant
• A new apprenticeship levy to
deliver 3 million apprenticeships
• Real terms protection of schools
• The largest ever investment in
• The improvement in our finances
used to help on tax credits
• An average saving of £30 from
projected energy bills
Five years ago our job was to rescue
Britain. Today our job is to rebuild Britain.
Since 2010, no economy in the G7 has grown
faster than Britain. Our economy this year is predicted to grow by
for Budget Responsibility forecast today is that the economy
will grow robustly every year, living standards will rise every
year, and more than a million extra jobs will be created over the
next five years.
The improvement in the nation's finances
allows me to:
1 Borrow £8 billion
less than we forecast
2 Spend £12
billion more on capital investment
Reach the same goal of a surplus while cutting less in the early
Our approach is to reform and rebuild. The reforms
1 Develop a modern, integrated,
health and social care system
Spread economic power and wealth
4 Reinforce our
In this Spending Review, we choose to
build. I am:
1 Doubling the housing
2 Extending the Right to Buy
to housing association tenants
Accelerating housing supply
Addressing the housing crisis in London
Raising rates of Stamp Duty on purchase of additional properties
For we are the builders.
Today we deliver the Spending Review
of a One Nation government.
Well done, George!
Einstein's theory of general relativity
stated that space bends and stretches under the influence of matter
and energy. His theory revolutionized our vision of the universe. It
explains the behavior of orbiting binary pulsars and the orbit of
Mercury. But the beginning of the universe and the region near the
center of a black hole are quantum worlds.
Einstein saw the
need to understand the quantum realm. General relativity uses
differential equations to describe a smooth and differentiable
space. In contrast, quantum mechanics describes a quantized world.
The mathematics of the two theories are fundamentally at odds. A
theory of quantum gravity remains one of the open goals of modern
Black Hole Starivores
A fast radio burst (FRB) detected in 2007
released more energy in a few milliseconds than the sun does in a
month. Since then, we have found 10 more. A
suggests that when a black hole ingests an inward spiraling neutron
star, they interact to generate an FRB.
As a black hole moves
within the magnetic field of a neutron star, their orbital and spin
motion generates an electric current that flows along the magnetic
field lines between them. The power grows as the black hole and
neutron star spiral closer. In the few milliseconds before they
merge the radiation rises steeply. From a remote galaxy the radio
waves appear as an FRB with a distinct fingerprint, with radio
emission rising to a double peak in brightness.
could help test the theory of general relativity. When two very
massive objects collide, the shock should make waves in spacetime. No
one has yet seen gravitational waves. But new instruments like
should be able to spot them from an FRB collision.
AR On starivores see a book I edited:
The Beginning and the End by Clément Vidal (Springer 2014).
2015 November 24
The Perfect Theory
Pedro G. Ferreira
The theory of general
relativity is the scientific equivalent of Michelangelo's Sistine
Chapel. Both are unique works of genius and each could only have
been done by one individual.
Albert Einstein struggled for
seven years to get it right. He worked on his ideas and equations
exhaustively and then presented his theory in a series of lectures
in November 1915, culminating in a final presentation on November
24. He published the theory on December 2.
The European Space
Lisa Pathfinder is designed to help find the
gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's theory, It is scheduled for
launch on December 2.
Daesh vs Rest
Islamic State sees
itself as a state. It believes it has achieved the Sunni ideal of a
caliphate. It believes it must ultimately confront and then defeat
the West in a big battle between truth and falsehood. But it would
rather be left to consolidate its position for now.
dispirited by the mass migration of Syrian refugees into Europe. It
has appealed to them to migrate to the caliphate rather than to the
lands of the infidel. Smuggling fighters into France who had posed
as refugees may have been designed to exploit fears about the
security risk posed by accepting Syrian refugees. For Daesh, any
Muslim not backing its project is guilty of heresy.
wants to eradicate the gray zone of coexistence. Its aim is to
divide the world into Muslim and infidel, black and white. It
believes that by polarizing the world it will hasten the return of
the messiah. This may be its undoing. The wider world is waking up
to a threat it cannot ignore.
Britain must decide whether it wants to join in the fight against
Daesh or whether it is content to sit on the sidelines. We can join
France and the United States at the head of a coalition or we can
gamble that others will do the work for us. We cannot win a reprieve
from the jihadists.
David Cameron will make a final effort to
win a parliamentary majority for bombing in Syria. He may be forced
to accept a further diminution of UK standing among allies. The
United States, France, and Australia are growing tired of our
inability to pull our weight. Russia and Iran have their own
interests in Syria that do not necessarily converge with our own.
The British position, of joining the coalition in Iraq but
stopping at the borders of Syria, is morally indefensible. The UK is
not served well by the impression of British decline and retreat. We
are still the fifth wealthiest nation in the world. It matters what
we do when our friends are under attack.
2015 November 23
We Will Win
Our Strategic Defence and Security Review
is a comprehensive plan to back our armed forces, counter-terrorism
police, and intelligence agencies with the resources they need to
defeat terrorism and to tackle the many other threats we face.
The United Kingdom will meet the NATO target of spending 2% of
our GDP on defence and the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNI on
development, while also increasing investment in our security and
intelligence agencies and in counter-terrorism.
tackle the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism and refocus our
aid budget to support fragile and broken states and regions, to
prevent conflict and promote the rule of law, good governance, and
the growth of democracy.
Our strategy includes deepening our
resources and international cooperation on counter-terrorism to
detect and foil plots from wherever they emanate in the world. So
along with 1,900 new staff for our agencies and increased investment
in counter-terrorism police, we will invest in a new generation of
We will use our renewed economic
strength to defeat the terrorist threat and help keep us safe for
generations to come.
David Cameron will today pump an extra
£12 billion into strengthening UK defenses. The 2015 defense review
will include a 30% increase in the counter-terrorism budget, £2
billion on special forces, and a focus on cyber defenses.
budget increase for defense kit over the next decade will take total
spending to £178 billion. The additional spending will maintain
defense spending at 2% of GDP, in line with the NATO target.
The budget will include funding for nine Boeing P-8 aircraft to take
on the Russian submarine threat. The plan also brings forward the
procurement of 24 F-35 aircraft for two new aircraft carriers.
made in the 2010 defense review in 2010, which did not do enough to
fight new threats such as cyber attacks or Islamist terrorism and
which axed UK maritime surveillance capability. The Boeing P-8
maritime patrol aircraft will fill the gap left by by scrapping
||Type 26 Global
||F-35B Lightning II
"The United Nations Security
Council has unanimously backed
action against this
cult in both Syria and Iraq."
ISIL controls an area bigger
than the British Isles
Russians bomb Daesh oil assets
Credit: Shakh Aivazov
Chris Watt Photography
School in Moray,
Scotland, was founded in 1934
Hahn. Princes Philip
and Charles both went there.
described it as
"Colditz in kilts"
2015 November 22
Europe has become unsafe as a result of
decades of mass immigration from Islamic countries. We should
respond to the crisis by voting on crucial national policies in binding
Leaving the European Union would let the
Netherlands adopt its own asylum policies. Support is growing for my Party for Freedom in
the Netherlands. We do not want to bring
in large numbers of people from a less liberal and less secular
Dutch political elites think they know better than
the people. In a direct democracy, citizens are sovereign.
The Netherlands would benefit from direct democracy.
Jihadis are engaged in a thousand-year
struggle for global supremacy against Christianity.
Muhammad embarked on his prophetic mission, most people in the
Mideast were Christian. Yet by 650 CE, soon after his death, Arab
armies had conquered most of the region and many Christians were under
their rule. The Byzantine Empire lost huge territories but still
Christendom did not collapse. In the age of the
Crusades it began to go on the offensive. Summoned by the Pope in
1096 to defend the holy sites of Jerusalem, Christian armies set for
the Holy Land. In 1099, the Crusaders broke into Jerusalem, and the
streets of the city flowed with blood.
Jerusalem remained in Christian hands for less than a century. By
1400, a chain of Muslim lands stretched from the Atlantic
to the China Sea. In 1453 the Ottomans conquered Constantinople
and made it a bastion of Islam. In 1529, and again in 1683, an
Ottoman army almost took Vienna.
Then the British Empire
arose. Muslims could no longer ignore the sheer scale of their
decline. It was they who were now the imperial subjects, and Islam
was looked down on as backward. Many in the Muslim world looked to
the golden age of the Caliphate for their inspiration.
some two-thirds of Muslims worldwide want to see the restoration of
Daesh savagery has roots in the Wahhabism
of Saudi Arabia. Members of the Saudi ruling class applaud Wahhabi
opposition to Shia and its Salafist adherence to the original
practices of Islam.
Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-91 CE)
said everyone should study the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. He opposed Sufism and Shia as heresy. His patron
was Muhammad Ibn Saud, a local warlord. Saud enforced Wahhabi Islam
with the sword while Wahhab promoted study and debate.
Wahhab died, Saud's son began the wholesale slaughter of resistant
populations. His army sacked Karbala and slaughtered thousands of
Shias, and Mecca surrendered to him in 1803. Then the Ottomans
defeated him in 1815.
Wahhabism arose again with the help of
Lawrence of Arabia. The Saudi chieftain carved out a kingdom with his devout Bedouin army, the Ikhwan, who massacred apostates in their thousands, slaughtered women and
children, and slit the throats of all male captives. The Ikhwan
continued to raid British protectorates, and even attacked the Saudi
king until finally he quashed them in 1930.
kingdom abandoned jihad and Wahhabism became a conservative
movement. But the oil price rise in 1973 gave the kingdom all the
petrodollars it needed to export Wahhabism. Its mosques and madrasas
formed a generation of Muslims with intolerant sectarianism.
Like the Ikhwan,
Daesh represents a rebellion against the official Wahhabism of
Saudi Arabia. Its caliphate has no support internationally
and is derided throughout the Muslim world.
France has deployed carrier-borne aircraft
to bomb Syria. Britain cannot. After the 2010 strategic defense and
security review, Sea Harriers jets, the Invincible class carriers, and Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft were
all scrapped. Now
Russian submarines lurk near Britain undetected. The conflicts in
Iraq and Afghanistan used up most British reserves. Now land vehicles are
worn out and Tornados are running out of flying hours. The 2015
review is due tomorrow.
2015 November 21
President Obama believes that ground invasions
and occupations of countries in the Mideast are not the most
effective way of addressing terrorism. US Special Forces will go
into Syria to facilitate operations by Kurds and Sunni Arab forces.
There is a humanitarian challenge. Displaced families need a
safe haven. There will have to be continued investment in welcoming
Syrian refugees to different countries. President Obama admires what
Chancellor Merkel has done.
Dabiq is a magazine distributed by Daesh.
University of Arizona professor Shahira Fahmy found that Dabiq
images promoting the idea of an idealistic caliphate far outnumbered
photographs of killings and torture. Overall, only 5% of imagery
produced and distributed by Daesh is violent.
Foundation report found that the propaganda Daesh distributes in the
Mideast often shows the group "administering its civilian
population, cleaning the streets, fitting electricity pylons, fixing
sewage systems, purifying water, collecting blood donations,
providing health care and education" to reassure people that they
are living under a functional authority.
Daesh is media
literate. Fahmy points to images showing serenity and repentance
"suggesting that any individual will always be embraced by the
organization and forgiven for past affiliations upon joining the
caliphate" alongside others promoting the idea of victimization by
Black Daesh, white Daesh: Islamic State,
Saudi Arabia. Daesh feeds on Wahhabism.
Saudi Arabia exports
Wahhabism, which aims to restore a caliphate centered on the holy
book and the holy sites. Born in massacre and blood, it manifests
itself in a surreal relationship with women, a prohibition against
infidels treading on sacred territory, and ferocious religious laws.
Saudi Arabia is a Daesh that has made it.
The West salutes
the Saudi theocracy as its ally but ignores its global sponsorship
of Islamist culture. The Saudi royals are caught in a trap. Their
clergy produces Islamism, which both threatens the country and gives
legitimacy to the regime. Religious television channels have an
immense transformative influence on the society.
newspapers cast the West as a land of infidels. The Paris attacks
were the result of its onslaught against Islam. Muslims and Arabs
are the enemies of Crusaders and Jews. The Palestinian question, the
rape of Iraq, and the memory of colonial trauma are packaged into a
messianic discourse meant to seduce the masses.
Daesh has a
mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi
French governments have long failed to
protect the population.
Opinion polls reveal that the French
population has always:
Maintained its trust in and solidarity with its police officers and
• Disliked the
sermonizing from the left on how to treat migrants and refugees
• Been suspicious of the foreign
military adventures its leaders have chosen
is discredited. The solution is direct democracy.
AR Last time the French tried that they
ended up with Napoleon.
2015 November 20
Captivity is a historical novel
about the Roman Empire. Jesus, Claudius, Caligula, Pontius Pilate,
and Philo of Alexandria all make cameo appearances. György Spiró views them through a Jewish lens.
century CE is well documented. Spiró draws on the histories of
Tacitus and Suetonius, the writings of Josephus and Philo, the New
Testament, and the Talmud. These sources tell us about the politics
of imperial Rome, the religious fervor of Jerusalem, and the ethnic
strife of commercial Alexandria, all in the decades up to about 70
The tale begins with Uri, a poor Jew living in a hovel in
Roman ghetto. He is brainy but scrawny and lives
on Roman welfare. Like Forrest Gump, he blunders through the margins
of historical events.
In Rome, we are shown
gladiatorial combat, a client's morning visit to his patron, and a
public execution. These scenes introduce us to Roman brutality,
hierarchy, and corruption. Uri's father is casually asked for a huge
loan by a princely Jewish friend of Caligula, and forced deep into
As favor in return, Uri gets permission to go to
Jerusalem. There he ends up in jail, in the same cell with Jesus and
two thieves on the eve of the crucifixion. Jesus goes unnamed, and
Uri finds out only much later who he is, when the Nazarene cult has
turned Jesus into the Christian messiah.
When Uri makes it
to Alexandria, he settles into an ancient version of New York City.
He becomes the confidant of Philo the philosopher and witnesses a
pogrom. This violent uprising of Greeks against Jews reminds us of
the Holocaust. By the end of the tale, Uri has survived the Jewish
War. Christianity appears as a last echo of Judaism.
pessimism or fatalism pervades this novel. It is a profound
meditation on what Judaism meant, and means.
2015 November 19
Daesh does not have its natural social
incubator within Syria. Jihadists feed on the support of the Turks
and the Saudis and Qatari, and of course the western policy that
supported the terrorists in different ways. Daesh started not in
Syria but in Iraq, and before that in Afghanistan.
The timetable for elections in Syria starts after defeating terrorism. You cannot achieve anything politically while
you have the terrorists taking over many areas in Syria. After that,
one year and a half to two years is enough for any transition.
Economics of Terrorism
To judge by Paris, Islamic State prefers to
outsource. From its supply chain to its event planning, it is a
multinational. Yet the economic impact of Islamist terrorists is
usually minimal apart from on tourism and travel.
For this reason alone, talk of war on Daesh is misguided. The
Islamists have formed a state within Syria and Iraq by controlling
the local oil industry. Their attacks in "the gray zone" aim to
foment a clash of civilizations.
The Paris attacks may dent
the economies of several European countries if governments respond
by reinstating border controls. Citigroup economists warned this
week of a growing backlash against a key element of globalization.
The recent pause in globalization was not due to global jihad.
Terrorism is a marketing campaign for recruits. Set against natural
events and the rhythm of industry and trade, its effects are
War of Ideas
A recent conference in London on Muslim
integration aimed to get people of different beliefs to debate with
Islamic scholars and academics. Participants attacked the idea of
deradicalization as an aspect of western prejudice against Muslims.
This is the stuff taught in
British colleges and universities. It says Muslims are radicalized
because they are victims of Islamophobia, and any attempt to deal
with radicalization that does not admit this is Islamophobic.
Many Muslims will use this view to oppose the UK strategy of
tackling extremism by banning preachers from the internet, vetting
the political views of people working with children, and
blacklisting and banning Muslim groups.
The strategy will
provoke resistance. Better to fight the ideas of apologists and
relativists with better ideas.
2015 November 18
The New York Times
There is no consensus on how to defeat
Islamic State. But a resolution of the Syrian conflict and a broader
reform of Islam must be part of a solution. If the United States
decided to remove the Assad government, it would have the support of
Saudi Arabia and Turkey but not of Russia or Iran.
Washington Institute fellow Ehud Yaari: "To beat ISIS, you need
the enlistment of the Sunni forces. That won't happen as long as
Assad remains in power in Damascus. The shortest and most effective
way to deal with ISIS is for the United States and Russia to come to
an agreement about the removal of Assad, and they will get support
from others. Then the Sunni forces, the rebels, can deal with ISIS
on the ground."
Russian experts say the wellspring of radical
religious ideology is Saudi Arabia and the Sunni states of the
Persian Gulf. Gennady V. Gudkov: "The roots are not in Syria. The
problem is far more serious. All the world leaders should think of
this: A significant part of the Islamic religion is infected with a
tumor that is metastasizing."
A military solution is likely
to meet brutality with brutality. To tame an Islamist insurgency in
Chechnya, Russians destroyed the capital, Grozny, and even held the
families of jihadists hostage.
Former Mossad chief Shabtai
Shavit: “With this enemy, we have to push aside arguments on law,
morality, and comparisons of security and the rights of the
individual. That means to do what they did in World War II to
Dresden. They wiped it off the map. That is what has to be done to
all the territorial enclaves that ISIS is holding."
eradicating all violent jihadi groups will probably require drastic
reform of governments in the Mideast: greater accountability, fair
justice, better schools, more job prospects.
Islam is in the middle of a reformation. It
needs time to adapt to the modern world. The Ottoman caliphate
abolished poll taxes on infidels, gave equal citizenship rights to
all Abrahamic monotheists, and scrapped traditional Islamic
punishments such as the death penalty for apostates.
thinkers, theologians, and activists are contributing to the
reformation. They are grappling with universal human rights, shared
values with other religions and philosophies, gender equality, the
status of minorities, the separation of mosque and state, a critique
of Islamic scripture, and the promotion of scientific and rational
thinking. All agree that Islam needs to be reconciled with the
modern world and its interpretations normalized.
Fundamentalist regimes such as those of Saudi Arabia, Iran,
Pakistan, Afghanistan, northern Nigeria, and Islamic State have
reinstated abhorrent practices from early Islam. Islamic State
barbarism has helped show that a future Islam must be based on
liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Islamic State exploits chaos. Its strategy:
1 Hit soft targets. Disperse the efforts
of the enemy and drain it.
victims when their guard is down. Sow fear, damage economies.
3 Capture the rebelliousness, energy,
idealism, and self-sacrifice of youth.
Expose the weakness of the West by pushing it to fight directly.
Islamic State spearheads radical Arab Sunni revivalism. This is
a dynamic, revolutionary, counter-cultural movement of world-historic
proportions. Treating it as terrorism reflects incomprehension of
its alluring moral mission to save the world. Its leaders seek to
create chaos in the land of the infidel. They see the fact that
Europe needs mass immigration to maintain a big workforce as a
godsend. European intolerance of immigration makes for chaos they
A thrilling cause inspires them. Jihad is
fraternal, dynamic, glorious, cool, and persuasive. In 2014 more
than 1 in 4 French youth aged 18-24 had a
favorable opinion of ISIS, yet fewer than 1 in 12 of the French are
Muslim. ISIS recruiters are expert at linking personal grievances
into a universal theme of persecution against all Muslims. The ISIS
e-zine Dabiq appeals to Muslims caught between the caliphate and the
infidel by quoting Osama Bin Laden: "The world today is divided."
AR I was impressed by Atran's 2010
Talking to the Enemy.
2015 November 17
After the Attacks
The New York Times
Islamic State terrorist attacks are
hard to anticipate or prevent. In Europe each one intensifies the
xenophobia of nationalists ever ready to demonize Muslims and shut
down EU internal borders. Adopting draconian measures of the sort
demanded by FN president Marine Le Pen can only further alienate the
5 million Muslims in France.
Prevention of further attacks
will require threatened states to find a way to end the Syrian civil
war. In Vienna, US and Russian delegates agreed on a draft plan for
a phased transition to an interim government and elections in Syria.
At the G20 meeting in Turkey, US President Obama talked privately
with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Clash of Civilizations
Samuel Huntington predicted in 1993 that
international politics would be dominated in this century by a clash
of civilizations. Hardline Islamism is on the rise worldwide as
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have used oil money to spread
intolerant forms of Islam around the world.
Malaysia has a
Muslim Malay majority and an ethnic Chinese minority, but Arab
influences have eroded the Malay variant of Islam and replaced it
with a more austere and exclusive interpretation.
Bangladesh, radical Islamists are behind a spate of recent murders
and attacks on Christians, Hindus, and Shia Muslims.
prime minister Narendra Modi is accused of tolerating anti-Islamic
prejudice and violence, and in recent months his Hindu nationalist
BJP has ramped up anti-secular and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has let religion become much
more central to Turkish politics and identity.
In Europe, the
migrant crisis had helped to fuel the rise of anti-Muslim parties
and social movements.
In the United States, anti-Muslim
rhetoric is also rising.
2015 November 16
I am determined to prioritize the resources
we need to combat the terrorist threat. This is a generational
struggle that demands we provide more manpower to combat those who
would destroy us and our values.
Count me in.
The murders in Paris were an act of war
and a gift to xenophobes. Islamic State wants to provoke an
The far right will draw false
connections between migration and terror. The French National Front
makes scant distinction between violent jihadis and peaceful Islam.
For them every Muslim refugee is a potential terrorist. Marine Le
Pen is seen as a credible candidate in the contest for the French
presidency in 2017.
Destruction of Islamic State strongholds
in Iraq and Syria will not wipe it out. Ending the war requires a
AR Ending it
requires military victory first.
The security order that protects our
civilization has become fragile. It cannot cope with the influx of
migrants from failed and failing states. Nor is it managing to deal
with the presence of alienated religious and ethnic minorities
inside our borders. On current form, defeat looms.
we must want to win. We can only argue convincingly with jihadists
if we believe in our ideas as strongly as they believe in theirs.
International law, diplomacy and institutions are good ways of
settling differences with people who accept the rules of the game.
Faced with jihadists who will ruthlessly use force and take risks in
pursuit of victory, seeking compromise is a guarantee of defeat, not
To win, we must accept a few sacrifices. Business
and finance are the servants of our civilization, not its masters.
Our business people must disentangle themselves from the people who
want to destroy us. The European Union needs to start behaving like
a great power. No one country can win alone. Together we can win.
AR Without victory, there is no
2015 November 15
The mindless, random violence of Beirut,
Benghazi, or Baghdad has come to a European capital. This new
assault may well be the beginning of a long wave of assaults. We
must grasp this, fast.
Chaotic migration is one
consequence as the Mideast unravels. But a campaign of destruction
by Islamist fanatics who hate our way of life is more. This is war,
said François Hollande. This is total war, added Nicolas Sarkozy.
AR What the fanatics want is a
single global polity. The Islamist rhetoric is utter rot. The
reality will be Big Brother writ large —
Edward Gibbon described the decline and
fall of the Roman Empire in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. He
covered more than 1,400 years of history: Decline shaded into fall,
with monotheism acting as a kind of imperial dry rot.
Ward-Perkins writes in
The Fall of Rome (2005) that what happened was "violent seizure
... by barbarian invaders" with "horrors and dislocation" marking
the "end of civilization" within a single generation.
Heather writes in
The Fall of the Roman Empire (2005) of the disastrous effects of
mass migration and organized violence: "For the adventurous, the
Roman empire ... presented an unprecedented opportunity to prosper
... the Roman state became its own worst enemy."
Roman Empire before it, the European Union has allowed its defenses
to crumble. The great migration of 2015 brought millions, most
hoping only for a better life. But as Gibbon saw, convinced
monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire.
Ward-Perkins: "Romans before the fall were as certain as we are
today that their world would continue for ever substantially
unchanged. They were wrong."
History is not destiny. GLOBORG changes everything.
My political friends in
Park, shot by:
Ice volcano on Pluto
A Chinese collector
$170 million in New York
for this 1918 painting
"Modigliani painted Nu couché
in a world at war ... This is a
beautiful act of defiance."
"The climate problem has to
be solved in the rich countries.
China and the US and Europe
have to solve CO2 emissions,
when they do, hopefully
they'll make it cheap enough
2015 November 14
Marine Le Pen
Nous vivons l’horreur. Nous
vivons une tragédie nationale.
Hier soir la capitale de la
France a subi des attaques d’une barbarie inouïe qui montrent une
nouvelle escalade dans la violence du terrorisme islamiste. Pour la
sixième fois en 2015, il a frappé notre pays.
La France et
les Français ne sont plus en sécurité.
Le président de la
République a annoncé l'état d'urgence et le contrôle temporaire aux
frontières, c'est bien. Mais quoi qu'en dise l'Union européenne, il
est indispensable que la France retrouve la maîtrise de ses
frontières nationales définitivement.
La France doit enfin
déterminer quels sont ses alliés et quels sont ses ennemis. Ses
ennemis, ce sont ces pays qui entretiennent des relations
bienveillantes avec l'islamisme radical, ce sont aussi ces pays qui
ont une attitude ambiguë avec les entreprises terroristes.
Enfin, le fondamentalisme islamiste doit être anéanti.
Frontex de contrôle des
frontières extérieures de l'UE, laissez
OTAN mènent des attaques sur
Chancellor Angela Merkel denied on TV that
she had lost control of the refugee crisis: "The chancellor has the
situation under control, also the entire government."
finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble describing the refugee crisis as
an avalanche, she said: "I say we should show a friendly face of
On whether her claim "We can do it" still held, she
said: "I believe we must nevertheless work toward doing it, and I
have no doubt that we can do it."
AR I fear she's lost it.
Benjamin R. Teitelbaum
The Swedish government has
announced that Sweden is reintroducing border controls. Across
Europe, states like Austria and Germany too are calling for Europe
to reinforce its external borders. Swedish efforts have turned to
repatriating migrants or relocating them to neighboring states.
Danish migration minister Inger Stojberg said her country would
not accept them: "Sweden has had an irresponsible refugee policy for
years. They have put themselves in this situation."
has a population of less than 10 million, but it has been absorbing
10,000 asylum seekers a week, and expects the total number this year
to reach 190,000. Municipalities complain that they lack housing,
teachers, and doctors for them.
The Sweden Democrats have
grown fast since entering Parliament in 2010. Prime minister Stefan
Lofven called them neo-fascists. When they criticized his policy
months ago for its blindness to logistical and economic pitfalls, he
dismissed them. Now they call the tune.
AR Europe faces an existential problem. The crisis will kill
the union unless EU leaders rise to the occasion. I say:
2015 November 13
Lawrence of Arabia
Artists deconstruct the
legacy of Lawrence of Arabia this month in an
exhibition in Amman,
Jordan, organized by Tom Hunter. Lawrence fought alongside Arab
forces in the 1916-18 revolt against the Ottoman empire. Lawrence's
Seven Pillars of Wisdom created a mystique. His whole life
seems an orientalist fantasy.
The classic movie
Lawrence of Arabia
is omnipresent in the
exhibition. The film defined the story of Lawrence and the Arab
revolt. The narrative it depicts casts a white male adventurer as
the leading protagonist of an Arab struggle.
Lubna Anani: "It's such a horrible movie. It puts Lawrence as the
hero. Those people that sacrificed their lives for their freedom, in
the movie they show them like thieves, like savages."
Hunter: "You're selling an idea. You're selling a beautiful white
man with blue eyes. And he becomes the Madonna of the Desert, and
everyone else are his understudies."
Anani: "We're very aggressively
putting ourselves in the picture."
Is nothing sacred?
Lawrence is the Prophet of Anglo-Arab friendship, the movie a
supreme classic. Colonialism be damned — the historical truth is
clear. David Cameron loves the movie. I do too.
The New York Times
Researchers find that
driving systolic blood pressure to levels far below what current
guidelines recommend — less than 120 instead of 140 or 150 mm Hg (1
mm Hg = 133 Pa) — can save lives and prevent heart disease and
In a study of over 9,000 patients aged 50 and older
with high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for
heart disease, half were assigned to a systolic pressure target
below 140 and half were assigned a target pressure of less than 120.
After an average of 3.2 years, there were 26% fewer deaths and 38%
fewer cases of heart failure among patients who hit a target of 120
rather than 140. To get down to 120, patients took an average of one
additional blood pressure pill a day.
Dr. Marc Alan Pfeffer
said that previously if a patient over 50 years old with a risk
factor for heart disease came into his office with systolic pressure
of 136 he would pat the patient on the back, but now he would wish
to prescribe more drugs.
Dr. Michael Alderman says the study results mean 6 people per
1,000 annually would avoid a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure:
"If there were no, or minimal, harms like a safe one-time
vaccination, it would be a no-brainer. But if it means decades-long
pill taking by generally healthy folks, the decision gets more
AR Moral: Keep fit
and eat and drink healthily. Don't do drugs.
2015 November 12
The world's first trillionaires could grow rich
by mining asteroids. US Congress has passed legislation granting US
companies "finders keepers" rights to natural resources claimed in
space. That might includes terabuck quantities of precious and rare
metals and water.
AR Or will a
Bill Gates of robotics get there first?
The nearby red dwarf star Gliese 1132 has
a Venus-like planet in orbit around it. GJ 1132b is slightly larger
than the Earth and and has a surface temperature of 500 K, too hot
for life as we know it but cool enough to keep an atmosphere. Gliese
1132 is 39 light years away, so this is the nearest rocky exoplanet
AR Twin Earth
must be nearby too.
2015 November 11
We in the UK need to face up to the
folly of our huge investment in nuclear weapons. We are bound by our
mutual defense agreement with the United States. Our Trident system
relies heavily on American expertise and is effectively part of the
US fleet. We should explain to the Americans and NATO that the money
we spend on our nuclear deterrent would be better spent elsewhere.
AR Investing in the US fleet is
money well spent.
Brendan Simms, Timothy Less
The problem with the European
Union is its ideology.
The ruling elites
transferred power from national capitals to the central European
institutions too quickly for most electorates. The EU is reneging on
its commitment to democracy. Unless Europeans can solve this
problem, the union will be on a glide path to collapse. States will
resort to unilateral solutions to urgent problems, member states
will start to fragment, Germany will assert its power more
forcefully over the rest, and then concessions will loosen the
If Britain chose to leave the EU, the states that
remained would face the prospect of remaining in a German empire
writ large, or leaving. The first to go would probably be states
such as Denmark, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. With each
departure, the rump union would become ever more dominated by
Germany, and others would bail out rapidly. Germany would soon be
Imagine that in 2016 or early 2017, Geert Wilders wins
the Dutch elections and forms a rejectionist coalition. Germany
unilaterally grants Britain a new deal on membership and Britain
votes to stay. Then Marine Le Pen wins the French election in 2017
and demands more concessions. Germany refuses. This triggers French
exit. The Netherlands is the next to go. Within weeks, most other
states decide to go too, including the UK, and by 2018 the EU is
A collapse would send shock waves around the world.
Timothy Snyder set the Holocaust in the
frame of brutal Nazi rule over the lands between Germany and Soviet
Russia and the horrific toll in lives taken by the two battling
powers. Now he interprets the Holocaust as arising when Hitler faced
what he took to be looming ecological crisis and national
Holocaust researchers have long debated
the motive. Some say Hitler aimed from the beginning to rid Europe
of the Jews. Others say his aim was less clear and the decision
process was driven by unfolding events.
One dispute concerns
the date of the decision to destroy European Jewry. At issue is
whether it was made because the war in the East was not going well
for Germany (December 1941) or because a German victory appeared
close at hand (July 1941) and the Nazis were riding a wave of
Snyder offers a maddening combination of right
and wrong, imagination and fantasy, good sense and absurdity. His
"discoveries" about the Holocaust do further harm to a field of
study already disfigured by misguided work.
CORAL I say Hitler was moved
by ambition to be an Antichrist.
2015 November 10
UK vs EU
UK prime minister David Cameron writes to
EC president Donald Tusk to set out four objectives of his EU reform
1 Protect the single market
for Britain and for others outside the eurozone.
2 Write competitiveness "into the DNA"
of the European Union.
the EU treaty to exclude the UK from "ever closer union" and
strengthen the role of
4 Restrict access to welfare
payments for migrant workers.
No big problem there, we presume.
Mortality among middle-aged white Americans
has been rising since 1999. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths
from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive
drinking can cause. A number of studies have shown that life
expectancy for less-educated whites is falling across much of the
America has both a much weaker welfare state and
a much stronger role for traditional religion and values than any
other advanced country. Life expectancy is high and rising in the
Northeast and California, where social benefits are highest and
traditional values weakest. Low and stagnant or declining life
expectancy is concentrated in the Bible Belt.
middle-aged whites have lost the narrative of their lives. They were
raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with
its failure to come true. Universal health care, higher minimum
wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans
in trouble. But they may not be enough to cure existential despair.
2015 November 9
The UK spends far less on science than any
other leading country. Taxpayer funding is 0.49% of GDP for research
compared with 0.9% in Germany and the US.
House of Commons
science and technology committee chair Nicola Blackwood: "Spending
on science and innovation is not a state subsidy. It is a strategic
investment that creates jobs, increases productivity and attracts
Professor Brian Cox: "Anything less than
a long-term commitment to increased investment in science will be
grossly negligent and damage our country, perhaps irreparably."
The science committee report calls for a
steady increase in research funding to nearly double its present
level. Pure research is essential for the new industries that
generate future growth, and private sector R&D cannot be relied on
to fill gaps left by public cuts.
Overall spending on R&D in
the UK is 1.6% of GDP, compared with a US 2.8%, the German 2.9%, and
an OECD target of 3%. British private sector R&D spending slumped in
2008-09 and has yet to return to previous levels. UK government
spending on research has been cut under austerity.
study put the ROI on scientific research at 20% pa. Few investments
can match R&D for impact on competitiveness and productivity, and
none comes close in terms of social spillover.
Geoengineering might be a way to soften the
blow of human-created climate change with technology. At present,
over 80% of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels. The world
uses a lot of energy, and will be using even more energy soon.
France and Sweden both transitioned very well onto nuclear. If
you want to cut 30-40% of your fossil fuel budget, you can
transition to nuclear. Cutting it all the way back to zero is really
The real challenge of geoengineering is developing the
institutions that might use it in a just and responsible way. These
are notional technologies. Implementing them might be quite
2015 November 8
Islamic State Global Threat
Islamic State has always had the potential to
become a global terrorist organization. With its tens of thousands
of motivated fighters, many willing to conduct suicide missions, its
control of extensive territory in which terrorist acts can be
planned and terrorists trained, and its financial wherewithal, this
organization has far more capability than al-Qaeda ever did. Islamic
State also has thousands of adherents with European and American
After 9/11, we in the West pledged never again to
allow a global terrorist organization the freedom to fund, plan and
train for terrorism from its home base the way al-Qaeda did in
Afghanistan. If Islamic State goes global, then our governments will
have broken that pledge. It's not too late to start fighting the
fire before it goes global. But doing so means a lot more than
modest airstrikes and a small contingent of special forces.
The Rise of the Robots
Artificial intelligence and
new robots will wipe away entire swaths of work and radically
reshape society. A new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch
looks at the likely effects: Jobs wiped out will be up to 35% of all
workers in the UK and 47% of those in the US.
this century may go the way of horses in the last. There were 21
million horses in the US in 1900. By 1960, there were just 3
Carl Benedikt Frey: "There will be people who own
the AI, and therefore own everything else ... Homo sapiens will be
split into a handful of gods, and then the rest of us. I think our
best hope going forward is figuring out how to live in an economy of
radical abundance, where machines do all the work, and we basically
play ... You have to think about a universal income."
Productivity is the key to economic growth. The latest round of
innovation in robots and AI is likely to power its continued rise.
But unless it is carefully managed, the gains may be captured by
shareholders and highly educated knowledge workers, leaving most
people out in the cold.
AR Time for a new ethic: Every human
citizen on Earth has a right to basic economic security.
What are the criteria for citizenship — submission to Allah?
Die Experimentieranlage Wendelstein 7-X im
IPP-Teilinstitut Greifswald soll die Kraftwerkstauglichkeit
von Fusionsanlagen des Typs
"Stellarator" demonstrieren. A: Konzept. B: Magnete. C: Bau.
Redefining banking to survive
and thrive in a digital world
2015 November 7
Nuclear fusion: The Wendelstein 7-X
stellarator in Greifswald, Germany, is about to fire up. The €1
billion WX-7 is a toroidal chamber 16 m in diameter containing hot
(100 MK) plasma. Extra twists and turns in its donut shape optimize the magnetic fields that contain and compress the
circulating plasma. If the fusion reactions can be stabilized, the design
will point the way to building a commercially viable fusion reactor.
If the W7-X works well, work on ITER could be abandoned.
Nuclear fission: The aging set of UK nuclear reactors was not
optimized for electricity generation but compromised so that they
could also produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The new
generation of fission reactors is much better. The European
Pressurised Reactor is not only more efficient but also more
complicated and expensive.
Renewables: Improvements in
technology, coupled with taxes on carbon emissions, will make energy
from wind and solar comparable in price with fossil electricity within a few years.
Chunks and Precedence
Corey S. Powell
Physicists have two rulebooks for nature.
General relativity accounts for gravity and big things. Quantum
mechanics handles the other forces and small things. Think of the
two as smooth versus chunky. If you try to interpret smooth
relativistic laws in a chunky quantum style, or vice versa, things
go wrong. Perhaps string theory can do better.
asks whether there is a quantum of space. If there is, string theory
is in trouble. Chunks would be a new way to understand space and
time. Hogan recalls how depth emerges in a TV picture made of flat
pixels and suggests spacetime might emerge from the chunks.
Hogan and his collaborators have built a chunk detector, a
holometer. This consists of a laser beam, a beam splitter, and two
mirrors to bounce the split beams back along an orthogonal pair of
long tunnels. If space is chunky, the locations of the mirrors will
jitter. When the two beams are recombined, any discrepancy will
reveal the chunk size. Hogan expects first results this year.
Lee Smolin thinks the parts of the universe may be
linked not only across space but also across time. His principle of
precedence explains the emergence of laws. If you do an experiment
that has been done before, you expect the same outcome. Consistent outcomes suggest a fixed natural law.
Smolin says the laws may emerge over time, as quantum systems copy
One way to test this is to do a new
experiment with no precedent for it to copy. If the principle of
precedence is correct, the initial results of the experiment will
look random. But as the experiment is repeated, precedence builds up
and the results become predictable. Precedence would reach up to
AR Hogan and his
holometer are repurposing
LIGO kit from
the graviton hunters, Smolin is sailing very close to the deeply
unfashionable theory of morphic resonance.
2015 November 6
US vs China
USS Theodore Roosevelt sailed 400 km south of
the Spratly Islands. US defense secretary Ashton Carter visited the
aircraft carrier and said: "Many countries in the region are coming
to the United States and asking us to do more with them so that we
can keep the peace out here."
Over the past two years, the
United States has agreed to closer military co-operation with Japan,
the Philippines, and Australia. Next in line is Malaysia. China has
reacted angrily to recent US operations in the South China Sea,
accusing Washington of violating its sovereignty.
Gunships vs Jihadis
US commanders retook a big patch of ground in
northern Syria from Islamic State by using feared ground-attack
aircraft for the first time.
AC-130H Specter gunship and
A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog tank-busters flew in support of
Kurdish and allied Arab forces, who recaptured the ground.
The Specter and Warthogs flew from an airbase in Turkey and
devastated the jihadis. The operation is a possible template for
The Warthog was feared by insurgents in Iraq
and Afghanistan and beloved by US troops. The Specter was originally
used in Vietnam.
A popular theory of consciousness is that
in unconscious perception information is processed locally
in the brain, and in conscious perception the information is
broadcast over the entire cortex.
When volunteers view
stimuli that may or may not enter conscious awareness, their brains
show identical EEG activity for the first 270 ms. If perception is
subliminal, the brain activity peters out, but when volunteers
become conscious of the stimuli, there is a sudden burst of
widespread brain activity 300 ms after the stimulus. This burst has
an EEG signal called P3b, and has been called a neural correlate of
Now a team has detected P3b during unconscious
processing of stimuli. This suggests that P3b is not a neural
correlate of consciousness, contradicting the popular theory.
Matthieu Ricard et al.
Meditation techniques for training
the mind hold great potential for supplying cognitive and emotional
When we meditate, nothing changes in the
surrounding environment, but the meditator regulates mental states
to achieve a form of inner enrichment. This experience affects brain
functioning and its physical structure. Meditation can rewire brain
circuits to produce salutary effects not just on the mind and the
brain but on the entire body.
In open presence or pure
awareness, the mind is calm and relaxed, not focused on anything in
particular yet vividly clear.
Our view of reality, our structures of meaning, and our sense of
identity are all touched and transformed by our technologies. The
digital mind uses information as a means to an end, but for Sven Birkerts
contemplation is the "alpha and omega" of thinking.
Transcendentalists found meaning in and through unmediated attention
to the natural world. A new transcendentalism would bring digital
technology to the same kind of transformative attention that they
brought to the natural world.
2015 November 5
UK prime minister David Cameron says the
Investigatory Powers Bill is one of the most important pieces of
legislation his government will implement. The new draft bill seeks
to reconcile the need for citizens to keep their data private with
the role of the security services for public safety.
UK intelligence agencies need to retain strong surveillance
powers, but the bill introduces judicial oversight over how they
operate. At present, ministers sign interception warrants allowing
the agencies to see the content of communications. The bill proposes
a double lock: warrants will be approved by not only a minister but
also a senior judge.
The extra safeguard will boost public
trust. It will reassure US companies asked to hand over data to UK
authorities. But the bill requires that internet and phone companies
keep internet connection records for up to 12 months. The police
argue that accessing these records is increasingly important for
their work, such as tracing child abusers.
UK home secretary
Theresa May should rethink the proposal to retain the web browsing
records of British citizens. In our age, a person's browsing history
offers a detailed insight into their life. Yet the bill suggests
that police officers may access such data without ministerial or
2015 November 4
Neurotribes is the most personal thing
I've ever written. I wanted to look at autism as a human community,
instead of a condition or a disorder. One of the things I do is
frame autism not purely in a clinical or self-help context, but in a
social justice context. I came to it thinking I was going to study a
disorder. But what I ended up finding was a civil rights movement
It used to be that all discussion of autism was,
in a sense, behind the backs of autistic adults, as if they were
children, as if these adults were invisible. In fact, they're all
Der Westen hat die Wahrheit
sagt an den Universitäten niemand mehr, dass es die Wahrheit gibt
oder dass sie erkennbar ist. Jeder, der behauptet, es gebe eine
Wahrheit oder er kenne sie, gilt als Fundamentalist. Der Islam ist
nicht euer Problem: Ihr habt die Wahrheit verloren, deshalb werdet
ihr die Freiheit verlieren. Wenn die Zeit der freien Debatte vorbei
ist, werden diejenigen, die Macht haben, über andere bestimmen.
Europa und der Westen fallen auseinander, weil sie ihr
christliches Markenzeichen, die Kategorie der Wahrheit verloren
haben. Es wird heidnisch, weil es um Geschichten und Mythen geht. Es
geht um Meinungen, um eigene Überzeugungen. Reformen beginnen mit
einer Person, die etwas verstanden hat und dafür gerade steht.
AR Die Wahrheit wird durch rigoroses
Denken anhand der Fakten erkannt. Wissenschaftler und manche
Philosophen (auch ich) verstehen dies schon.
Stress at Work
A little bit of stress is part of normal
life, but feeling dread, or fretting over things out of work hours,
is a sure sign that you are overly stressed. Signs include:
• Feeling panicky
Being unable to focus
like you can't cope
difficulty staying in the moment
• Having a
• Getting butterflies
A racing heartbeat
It you have these symptoms for too long,
you could be at risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and a low
Avoiding stress is very simple: Take more
2015 November 3
UK vs EU
German chancellor Angela Merkel has given
qualified backing to proposals by UK chancellor George Osborne for
EU reform and for a two-speed Europe.
Merkel told the BDI
conference in Berlin that Germany would support some of the British
demands for EU reform: "Where there are justified concerns, whether
competitiveness or better functioning of the EU, the British
concerns are our concerns."
BDI president Ulrich Grillo: "Not
all countries want a closer union. We must respect this ... Germany
needs the UK."
Humanism offers one of the most important
drivers of change that can improve our future.
It is possible
to imagine a future without the tyranny of religious myth and
superstition. The most important goal in educating our children
should be to encourage them to question everything. Encouraging
skeptical thinking helps create lifelong learners and citizens who
can responsibly address the demands of a democratic society.
Many of the specific claims of the sacred books of the world's major
religions are not valid. There may be places in the world where one
risks decapitation for questioning certain religious claims, but in
a rational world it is hard to argue that questioning these, or a
host of others of dubious repute, should be viewed as inappropriate.
Education is inseparable from teaching doubt. Informed doubt is
the essence of science.
2015 November 2
Bitcoin is a currency based on
cryptography, but its blockchain technology has wider applications.
The blockchain enables people who neither know nor trust each other
to pay bills correctly without trusted third parties such as banks.
It can work for other transactions too.
The blockchain is a
database that contains the payment history of every bitcoin in
circulation. This distributed ledger is openly replicated on
thousands of nodes around the world. Its security is guaranteed by
the mathematics of the consensus mechanism for updating it.
Say Alice wants to pay Bob. Their bitcoin wallets access the
blockchain rather as a browser accesses the web. The transaction
starts when wallet A proposes writing a block to decrement wallet A
and increment wallet B. The proposal propagates over the network and
nodes check the ledger to see if wallet A has the bitcoin Alice
wants to spend. If it does, nodes called miners bundle the proposal
with other transactions to create a new block for the blockchain.
To make a block, a hash function converts the data into a string
of digits of fixed length. The hashing is one-way and the hash is
unique. It goes into the header of the proposed block. Header and
hash function define a mathematical puzzle that can only be solved
by trial and error. Across the network, miners grind through
trillions of trials until a miner finds a solution. Other nodes
quickly check it (solving is hard but checking is easy), and each
node that confirms it updates the blockchain. The hash of the header
identifies the new block, which is now in the ledger. Alice pays
The puzzle adds security. Since you cannot predict which
miner will solve a puzzle, you cannot predict who will update the
blockchain, so cheating is hard. Each new header contains a hash of
the previous block header, and so on all the way back, concatenating
the blocks into a chain. From the ledger you can check the new block
header, but any change in the chain changes all the later blocks and
triggers rejection of the ledger.
Alice could cheat Bob by
erasing her payment history, solving the puzzle, and producing a new
version of the blockchain. But nodes always work on the longest
version of the blockchain, and in the time she needed, the rest of
the network would have lengthened the original blockchain. If two
miners both solve a puzzle they only cause a temporary fork in the
chain. The puzzle also adds incentive: Making a new block mines new
bitcoin, so the winning miner earns money.
The blockchain is
an open platform and it can be a registry of anything worth tracking
closely. But it may not scale. To authenticate miners, the bitcoin
architecture forces them to work on puzzles. This adds up to a lot
of wasted energy. And bitcoin blocks are far too small for bank
workflows. New code will handle large numbers of smaller
transactions outside the blockchain and support much bigger blocks.
But the improvements require community agreement.
Banks are racing to harness blockchain
technology. They think it can cut costs by $20 billion and transform
the industry by letting them overhaul banking infrastructure, speed
settlements, and streamline stock exchanges. Applications include
storing client identities, handling cross-border payments, clearing
and settling bond or equity trades, and self-executing contracts.
At first the lack of a central
authority provoked consternation among financial institutions. But
now the technology is heralded as the ultimate back office makeover
for banks. Ironically, libertarians had conceived the idea of the
blockchain to circumvent the global banking system.
Blockchain holds revolutionary promise. Banks can use its
unforgeable record of identity. Insurers can use its full records of
personal transactions. Governments are investigating its potential
for medical records and electoral voting systems.
open source technology will write smart contracts that execute
trades automatically. An effort is on to build a standardized
AR If I were
still at SAP, I would work on this platform.
2015 November 1
Jonathan Leader Maynard
Britain faces a choice: Full
replacement of the Vanguard-class submarines that launch Trident
missiles or complete nuclear disarmament, or something in between.
The UK cannot carry on using the
existing submarines much longer, and designing nuclear cruise
missiles for its attack submarines would not save money. But Britain
could end the present continuous at-sea deterrent (CASD) and build
fewer new submarines, or work with France to provide a joint CASD
rather than two separate ones.
Unilateral nuclear disarmament
is not an option:
crises and stand-offs look unlikely now. But when only one state in
a dispute has nuclear weapons, the nuclear power can always threaten
escalation until its opponent has no defense.
2 Full disarmament leaves the UK
dependent on the United States for security. We cannot assume the US
president will always be willing to risk US citizens to retaliate
against a UK aggressor.
3 If one
is willing to disarm, one may as well use the chance to elicit some
multilateral disarmament measures from other states, rather than
going it alone.
4 A world free
from the risk of nuclear conflict will only be achieved by a massive
multilateral effort to internationalize the ownership of nuclear
technology and a dense global regulatory framework.
British deterrent does close to nothing to protect national security
today. CASD is designed to protect the UK against a Cold War threat.
That scenario has vanished. Alternatives to CASD include a force
capable of CASD but not always active, or a lesser force that would
be deployed only when the risk of crisis rises.
The UK should buy the smallest and cheapest nuclear deterrent that
maintains strategic flexibility. A new plan could save billions.
AR I say go for joint CASD with
France to form a European deterrent with an EU fund to pay for it.
The presidency of the United States is
still the top job. The commander-in-chief of the world's strongest
military is the chief executive officer of the world's biggest
economy. POTUS is potent.
their next president a year from now. Among the people who currently
seem most likely to get the job are several who are not remotely
qualified to wield such power.
With Donald Trump it is not
what he says but the way that he says it. He is a throwback to a
bygone era when white Americans felt superior to everyone else, and
were happy to let them know it.
The American people give the
top job to whichever candidate best reflects their mood. Right now,
that mood is ugly. And so is the Donald.
Asteroids can contain water, oxygen, metals, and so
on that astronauts could use at a much lower cost than hauling stuff
from Earth. There are hundreds of thousands of asteroids.
Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson
estimates a megaton-size asteroid could contain more than $100
billion worth of materials for use in space and on Earth.
years ago, NASA planned to grab an asteroid and tow it into lunar
orbit. The agency now plans to send a robotic spacecraft to retrieve
a boulder from the surface of an asteroid in 2020.
planetary science director Jim Green: "Asteroids are a hot topic, a
stepping stone to Mars."
2015 All Hallows Day
Hallo an Alle am Schlossplatz IX zum
Syria: Who's where
Missions to the Moon
(HD, 3 min)
Henry Kissinger could stare
at the abyss with
He applied his mind to the
problem of making the
safe for limited nuclear war.
In his fantasy, after
nuclear weapons had reduced
Central Europe to a
radioactive ruin, the United
States would pause to
with the Kremlin about
what to do next.
abyss was carpet
bombing in Vietnam.
puts bacon, sausages
and hot dogs in the same
league as Pu
Queen Elizabeth II and
President Xi Jinping ride
to Buckingham Palace
New York Times
The Vienna summit on the Syrian war
includes Iran, along with the United States, Russia, Britain,
France, Germany, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the
United Arab Emirates. The war began in 2011, has killed a
quarter-million people, is causing the biggest refugee crisis since
WW2, and is a breeding ground for Islamic State.
A few weeks
ago, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any new talks with the United
States were forbidden. He described the United States as a
persistent enemy of the Islamic revolution, and said that despite
the nuclear agreement, it needed to be kept at a distance.
But the Supreme Leader may be giving more room to President Hassan
Rouhani, who advocates more open engagement with the rest of the
world. There is already tacit cooperation between Iran and the
United States in Iraq, where both are fighting Islamic State.
Iran claims to be the most influential power in the region.
Former Iranian diplomat and nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein
Mousavian: "Following the nuclear agreement, Iran is now ready to
cooperate on crisis management in the Middle East."
2015 October 30
UK vs EU
David Cameron and George Osborne want to
smooth coexistence of the EU single market with the EZ. Their
• An emergency
brake for non-euro countries to delay a vote threatening the single
• A ban on discrimination
against financial groups on the basis of their location
• Recognition of the EU as a
• Open up
the process of EZ policymaking
A guarantee that non-euro countries will not be saddled with EZ
• Affirmation that
non-euro countries need not follow initiatives driven by EZ
Better Li Battery
Cambridge University chemistry professor
Clare Grey and her team have made a breakthrough in the development
of lithium-air batteries. If their technology can be commercialized,
it will give electric cars batteries that cost and weigh 5 times
less than today's lithium-ion cells. Lithium-air cells have an
energy density potentially 10 times greater than that of lithium-ion
A lithium-air cell generates electricity by combining
lithium with oxygen to form lithium peroxide. It is then recharged
by applying a current to reverse the reaction. Running these
reactions reliably over many cycles is the challenge.
Cambridge scientists adjusted the chemistry to make it more
controllable. Their demonstration system is 90% efficient and can be
recharged 2,000 times. But it will need at least another decade of
2015 October 29
US trade representative Mike Froman says
a British exit from the EU would leave it facing the same tariffs
and other restrictions as emerging economies such as Brazil, China,
and India. Brexit fans say the UK could negotiate its own trade
agreements with the US and others.
The US is now focusing on
regional trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership
and on negotiations with the EU. Froman: "I think it is absolutely
clear that Britain has a greater voice at the trade table being part
of the EU, being part of a larger economic entity."
Norway No Way
Norway is no model for a future British
relationship with the European Union. David Cameron used the
platform of the Nordic summit to say so.
Both Norway and
Switzerland are outside the EU and both make uncomfortable
compromises. Norway opted to stay in the European Economic Area, but
must accept the free movement of people, goods, services, and
capital. It makes big payments to Brussels but has no vote there.
Britain cannot settle for that.
Work and Pay, Have No Say
Espen Barth Eide
EFTA members Finland, Sweden, Austria,
Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway negotiated with the European
Community to form the EEA in 1992. Austria, Finland, and Sweden all
joined the EU in 1995. Norway voted to stay out.
We do not
help make decisions in Brussels but we loyally abide by them. We
incorporate about three quarters of all EU legislative acts into
Norwegian legislation. We have accepted the free movement of people,
goods, services, and capital. We follow EU product standards, and
financial and employment regulations, and make substantial
contributions to the EU budget. Choosing this track would leave the
UK committed to the four freedoms, but with no say over EU policies.
Switzerland has an array of bilateral agreements with the EU.
This is an even more cumbersome way of integrating into Europe.
Every western European country has chosen to take part in the
European integration process.
2015 October 28
A Plan for Climate
The climate conference in Paris in December
is unlikely to mark a decisive turn in global efforts to curb
catastrophic climate change. But it might mark the end of the
Our overriding goals for this century should be
the elimination of mass poverty and risk of catastrophic climate
change. The case for early action is overwhelming. Any investments
in energy, transport, and urban infrastructure will lock in the
carbon intensity of our economies.
The climate risks are
large and the costs of addressing them bearable. But the path for
emissions needed to deliver a 50-50 chance of limiting the increase
in temperature to 2 K is radically new. On anything like our present
path the cuts in emissions will not occur. Fortunately, new
technology can spur a revolution in energy generation and storage,
in energy savings, in transport, and in carbon capture and storage.
This revolution needs state support. New technologies and
lifestyles can benefit national economies without taking account of
the impact on the climate. Rapid dissemination of innovation and
assistance to poorer countries is needed for new energy and
A relatively pragmatic approach combined
with accelerating technological change can avert disaster. The
effort must begin with a good agreement in Paris.
A Plan for Syria
In 2011, when protesters in Syria demanded
political reforms, President Assad saw this as an effort to
overthrow his regime and decided to stamp it out. Earlier this year
I questioned President Putin about his support for Assad. He said
the only real chance of ending the conflict was for the United
States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia to prepare a
comprehensive peace proposal.
The decision by Russia
to support the Assad regime with military forces has helped clarify the choice between a political process and more war. Assad
will not end the war by accepting concessions imposed by the West,
but is likely to do so if urged by his allies. An acceptable
government could then be established in Syria and a concerted effort
made to stamp out Islamic State.
2015 October 27
Timothy Garton Ash
Poland is the biggest success story of
post-communist Europe and the leading regional power between an
overstretched Germany and a rampant Russia. As Spain and Italy
struggle with the effects of the eurozone crisis, and Britain has
marginalized itself until its referendum on EU membership, the rest
of Europe needs Poland more than ever.
The Law and Justice
(PiS) party won because the Civic Platform government looked tired.
This was clear earlier this year when the incumbent president
Bronisław Komorowski was unexpectedly defeated by the younger PiS
The cosmological principle: Zoom out far
enough and the universe should exhibit a drab homogeneity. But a
giant void in the universe almost 2 billion light years wide seems
to contradict it. Another enormous structure strung out over 4
billion light years is too crowded: The Huge Large Quasar Group
contains 73 quasars. And a colossal group of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs)
appears to form a ring 5.6 billion light years across.
Dick regards the huge structures as evidence of other dimensions
intruding into our own. M theory suggests we live in an 11D
universe, and brane theory suggests that our universe is a 4D
membrane floating in a sea of similar branes in extra dimensions.
Looking into a region where another brane is overlapping with our
own might skew our redshift measurements.
In Big Bang
cosmology, the further away an object, the faster it appears to
recede and the bigger its redshift. Astronomers regard objects with
the same redshift as a structure, like the GRB ring or the huge
quasar group. A homogeneous universe could appear to contain massive
structures and enormous voids, yet still obey the cosmological
2015 October 26
Lords Turn Bolshy
UK tax credit cut legislation is delayed as the House
of Lords defies the government. At least Baroness Manzoor's "fatal
motion" was rejected.
Poland Turns Right
Law and Justice party (PiS) leader
Jaroslaw Kaczynski celebrated with new prime minister Beata Szydlo
as Poland turned right in an election that erased leftist parties
from the political map.
Mistrustful of Brussels, suspicious
of foreign capital, and espousing a social agenda rooted in
conservative Catholicism, the right won back control after 8 years
of centrist rule.
Kaczynski is expected to be the supreme
authority behind the scenes. A fierce critic of Moscow, he has said
that in power his party would oppose any proposals for Poland to
accept more refugees.
David Cameron will see PiS as a key
ally in blocking future transfers of power to Brussels. But he will
get no support from them to discriminate against the Polish
community in the UK.
Syria Turns Bad
Syrians today are enduring a brutal ordeal
that reenacts the drama of their ancestors a century ago. Thousands
of Russian military advisers are joining the fight on behalf of
President Bashar al-Assad, as Iran and Hezbollah have from the
beginning. The United States and its regional allies are increasing
the flow of arms to the rebels. Neither side has the power to defeat
Last year, the regime seemed to be gaining the
upper hand. A year later, the regime is in retreat. Palmyra is in
the hands of ISIS militants. The death toll has climbed to at least
320,000. Out of a total population of 22 million before the war,
more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, and another 7.6
million are displaced within it. Masses of Syrians are seeking
refuge in Europe.
A consensus among the United States and its
allies held that Assad's alliance with Iran was detrimental to their
interests. These powers perceived Iran using to its advantage
indigenous Shiites in the region along with the Alawite minority in
Syria. They sought to eclipse them on the battlefields of Syria. The
war is a free-for-all in which everyone pursues his own interests.
2015 October 25
Britain has never been so rich and the amount
of money and possessions most people have cannot be compared with
what people had when I first arrived. And yet the country behaves as
if it has never been so poor. It feels like we are permanently in
this age of austerity.
Jeremy Corbyn and I were both born in 1949,
and for most of my twenties I was on the staff of the New Statesman.
There were identikit Corbyns everywhere. In those years before
Margaret Thatcher, everyone was old left.
undereducated. His schooling dried up when he was 18, at which point
he had two E-grade A-levels to his name. He seems incurious about
anything beyond his immediate sphere.
He is humorless.
Arguing for a UK where every house has a garden, Corbyn elaborated
as follows: "Anyone who wants to be a beekeeper should be a
He is without the slightest grasp of the national
character. His proposal to leave NATO causes only exasperation in
London and puzzlement in Washington. His proposal to scrap the army
would be a spear through the British soul.
Corbyn's foreign policies, heed his Churchillian call for "political
compromise" with ISIS.
Generously equipped with the encysted
dogmas of the old left, Corbyn nonetheless gawkily embodies one of
its noblest themes: the search for something a bit better than what
A slicker Corbyn with a new suit and a new
smile is close to inconceivable. It is far easier to imagine a
Labour party that in any sane view is undeserving of a single vote.
I apologize for the fact that the intelligence
we received was wrong. Even though Saddam had used chemical weapons
extensively against his own people, against others, the program in
the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we
2015 October 24
Forty years ago, the US opening to China was
a strategic move. Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon
transformed the Cold War from a duel into a multiplayer game.
The UK government is making another strategic move. Its
reorientation of UK foreign policy is as much about geopolitics as
about economics. The UK has been the top destination for Chinese
capital in Europe, but since 2010 Britain has fallen behind.
The real economic issue is the potentially vast amount of Chinese
money that could flow abroad in future years. The Bank of England
estimates that China's gross international investment position could
reach 30% of world GDP by 2025, compared with around 5% now.
Forty years ago, the Chinese economy accounted for about 2% of global
GDP. By 2020 the Chinese share will be nearly 19%. At PPP the US
share will be 15%.
AR This not an
alternative but a complement to EU membership.
PEGIDA Is Back
Patriotische Europäer gegen Islamisierung
des Abendlandes (PEGIDA) is demonstrating again in Germany. A
prominent PEGIDA supporter regrets that concentration camps are
unavailable as a solution to the refugee crisis.
Bundesminister des Innern Thomas de Maizière describes PEGIDA
leaders as hard-core right-wing extremists but his domestic
intelligence service is not even monitoring the movement.
Verfassungsschützer Gordian Meyer-Plath is reluctant to take on
PEGIDA, which he calls a populist far-right movement rooted in anger
but no threat to German freedom and democracy.
Bundesjustizminister Heiko Maas condemns PEGIDA as a German
AR Rather a sign of
robust civic engagement.
A group led by Ronald Hanson at Delft
University of Technology all but proved quantum nonlocality with a
"loophole-free" Bell test: "We have confirmed that there is spooky
action at distance."
MIT physicist David Kaiser: "The
experiment has closed two of the three major loopholes beautifully,
but two out of three isn't three. I believe in my bones that quantum
mechanics is the correct description of nature. But to make the
strongest statement, frankly we're not there."
The NSF has
financed Kaiser and Alan Guth to close the third loophole using
light from distant objects on different sides of the galaxy in 2016,
and then light from quasars in 2017 and 2018.
AR See blog 2015-09-03.
2015 October 23
The UK unfurled the red carpet for President
Xi Jinping. David Cameron pledges that the UK will be China's best
partner in the west.
In contrast to France and Germany,
Britain had never made a sustained attempt to court China. The
government is now hurrying to catch up, betting that the potential
gains far outweigh the risks.
Some risks arise from China's
offshore military activity, its cyber-attacks on western firms, and
its burgeoning alliance with Russia.
Life on Mars
We have now seen signs of flowing water on
Mars. We have found organic matter on Mars. We know that organic
molecules have assembled into microbes in some of the most extreme
environments on Earth. It seems possible that the same has happened
Such simple life may be scattered through the
galaxy. Life on Earth may have been seeded by microbes ejected from
the Martian surface as a result of a meteor shower. If this theory
is right, we are all Martians.
Science has moved on. The
intriguing issue is not whether there is life elsewhere but what it
takes to evolve intelligence and consciousness.
AR I agree. This is why I let Apollo go
45 years ago and went on to
2015 October 22
The Hinkley C nuclear power reactor project in Somerset is
important for the future of the South West and UK energy mix. For
our region, this news is a welcome boost to jobs and growth.
There is huge scope for our local businesses to work with the
Hinkley developers to secure new revenue streams for this and future
projects. The Southern Powerhouse has truly arrived.
AR Julie is an excellent MEP.
TerraPower is a spin-off of
Intellectual Ventures, which was founded by
Nathan Myhrvold. The
company pursued a novel technology, the traveling wave nuclear
TerraPower director of innovation Jeff Latkowski:
"The traveling wave reactor was the focus of our early work, and
it's still the baseline product of the company. But we are looking
at other projects that we believe address the three critical areas
for nuclear power: safety, the environment, and costs."
TerraPower is exploring molten salt reactors, which offer safety and
economic advantages. The reactions slow as the fuel heats up, and in
the event of an accident the fuel drains into a sealed underground
chamber and cools off. No fuel fabrication is required, power
density and efficiency are high, enriched uranium is needed only for
startup, uranium dissolves well in the chloride solution, and the
waste can be reused as fuel.
TerraPower is also exploring
AR Memo to
Nathan: Go for thorium.
The Committee on Climate Change report due
in November will propose carbon budgets more than ten years into the
Committee chair Lord Deben: "The 2020s are crucial in
setting the direction for UK power generation, and to ensure the UK
can meet its 2050 climate change commitments cost-effectively. The
key tools are already in place to deliver the investment in
low-carbon generation that is required. The government must now
urgently clarify the direction of future policy."
green energy industry is now worth £122 billion and employs 460,000
people. But some of its government subsidies are due to expire
within this parliament.
The full cost of new gas-fired
generation will reach £85 per MWh for new plants coming online in
2020, and £95 per MWh for 2025, including the likely cost of carbon.
Wind and solar projects are under contract to deliver electricity at
£83 per MWh from 2016-17, but these prices rise by about £10 per MWh
if the intermittency of renewables is taken into account.
carbon price that reflects the full cost of emissions could increase
the cost of gas-fired generation to around £100 per MWh.
AR Emissions-free and non-intermittent
nuclear power can be much cheaper.
2015 October 21
Russian Med Threat
NATO wargame Trident Juncture in the
western Mediterranean will feature 36,000 troops with 140 planes and
60 ships, and continue into November.
Russia has a disruptive
presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Russian military assets in
Latakia and Tartus open up the southern flank of NATO to provocation
and threaten freedom of navigation for NATO forces. New Russian navy
berthing rights in Cyprus bring Russian surveillance and EW assets
close to the British air base at Akrotiri.
allied commander General Philip Breedlove: "Since Crimea we have
worked on assuring our allies and now we have to look at how that
assurance lends itself to deterrence."
A senior NATO
official: "In Kaliningrad, in occupied Crimea — which they are
turning into a fortress — and now in Syria, we see similar
concentrations of forces designed to stop NATO's freedom of action
NATO supreme commander for transformation
General Denis Mercier: "We are exercising in a scenario where NATO
does not necessarily have the balance of military power."
AR NATO member Turkey is at risk.
Geert Wilders, speaking near Perth,
Australia: "You will have millions of people coming to Australia,
like we do in Europe, and you will not be able to handle it. You
should be a sovereign country that closes your borders to those
kinds of immigrants."
Those kind of immigrants are Muslims.
Wilders' Party for Freedom leads the polls in the Netherlands.
Wilders flew to Australia to launch the Australian Liberty Alliance:
"If you read their manifesto it is clear that they are the freedom
fighters of Australia."
Not racist but anti-Islamist, and rightly too.
University of Bonn professor of philosophy
and chair of epistemology Markus Gabriel, 29, is a new realist.
the World Does Not Exist, translated by Gregory Ross, is his attempt
to free philosophy from the dead ends of postmodernism and social
Gabriel: "If we think about the world, what
we grasp is something different than what we want to grasp. We can
never grasp the whole. It is in principle too big for any thought."
For Gabriel, to exist means to appear in a Seinfeld: a finite
domain of meaningful connections, in contrast to the world as a
AR This has sound
formal precedents in the set theory I studied 40 years ago. See
(PDF: 162 slides, 7 MB) slides 45-60.
2015 October 20
Saint Paul is the apostle we love to hate.
The Jew from Tarsus devoted himself to spreading the message of
Jesus. But Paul had never met Jesus.
He had difficulty in
launching his evangelical career. He was known as the persecutor who
had become an evangelist. He and the apostle Peter divided up the
missionary work of the Christians, so that Peter would preach to the
Jews and Paul to the gentiles.
Jews had to live by the Torah.
But as Paul told the Galatians, the law could be fulfilled by
following a single precept: Love your neighbor as yourself. In
saying this, he effectively collapsed into one Jesus' two greatest
commandments, to love God and to love your neighbor.
theologian Adolf von Harnack said Paul delivered the Christian
religion from Judaism. Paul said he was the apostle of the nations
(in Hebrew "goy"). Paul breaks up the category of nations into
Greeks and barbarians. The barbarians are to the Greeks what the
Greeks are to the Jews.
Rabbinical scholar Jacob Taubes
expounded the view at a Heidelberg seminar in 1987 that Paul was a
Jewish zealot. Taubes was being deliberately provocative.
AR I was in Heidelberg in 1987 but I
don't recall Taubes. I do recall encountering Shimon Peres at the Heiliggeistkirche
with Helmut Kohl.
2015 October 19
Extremists jeopardize our democracy. Our
counter-extremism strategy sets out to tackle this poison on every
1 This is a generational
battle. Defeating our enemies will take time, patience, and
2 This is a battle
of ideas. Extremists infect public debate, divide our communities,
and advance a warped world view.
Extremists attempt to justify their views and actions through a
perverted, illiberal, and hostile interpretation of Islam.
must own this problem. But our Muslim communities must own it too. I
am confident we will defeat the extremists.
Europe looks a mess. The European Union
has a monetary union at its core, but not all EU members are EZ
members. Countries share a single currency yet run separate fiscal
policies. The financial crisis led to much higher unemployment in
peripheral countries because they fell behind German labor costs.
When the going got tough, the Germans got tougher.
fiscal compact of 2012 requires EZ members to run more or less
balanced budgets. Bundesrepublik Europa will speak German on public
finances. This can work if the ECB adopts quantitative easing, but
it may not produce much growth. Without growth, Europe cannot create
new jobs, much less absorb millions of poor refugees.
a wider perspective, the great shift from the west to the rest goes
on. This is the biggest global economic change in 500 years, when
Ming China led the world, until living standards began to improve
dramatically in western Europe and in places where Europeans settled
in large numbers, notably America. European empires soon dominated
Today China and other countries have copied what
after 1500 made Europe so successful. Europe and the west now suffer
from institutional degeneration and face a new threat. Radical Islam
is the ideological epidemic of our time, just as Bolshevism was an
ideological epidemic a century ago. Islamic extremism is a global
threat to western civilization.
The last mass movement of
people into western Europe was in the aftermath of WW2. Millions of
ethnic Germans settled in what became the Federal Republic. Today
the newcomers to Germany are mostly Muslim in religion. Nothing
saved Europe from fascism and communism or from the mass migrations
that followed. Europe today is no safer from Islamic extremism.
2015 October 18
The UK has stated that it will be the western
country that is most open to China. This is a visionary and
strategic choice that fully meets Britain's own long-term interest.
AR Xi makes a much better partner
than Mideast despots.
Weight: 60 Mg
Range: 8 Mm
CEP: 100 m
up to 12 x W88
Yield: up to 475 kt
Length: 175 cm
Diameter: 55 cm
Weight: up to 360 kg
2015 October 18
A terrible shadow is falling over Turkey.
The Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made the fatal
mistake of intervening in the formerly Ottoman territory of Syria.
Millions of Syrian refugees live in Turkish camps, or beg in
Istanbul, or cluster in ports a few miles from Europe. Some of them
teach the Koran and segregate boys and girls.
crosses national borders. Kurds in and around Turkey have long been
treated as second class citizens. Now Kurdish militants want a
The Erdogan government worked well for a
decade. Turkey should have been celebrating a triumphant Republic
Day next week. Instead in Ankara they talk of Turkish civil war.
2015 October 17
President Putin vs Caliph Ibrahim
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim
of Islamic State, holds no fear for Russian president Vladimir
Putin. The rise of the caliphate is an opportunity for him.
By entrenching Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in power, Putin is
compelling western countries to engage with Moscow in a different
way. US president Barack Obama was forced to meet him at the UN last
month. So far German chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to link the
situation in Syria to sanctions on Ukraine.
authoritarian governments over popular uprisings: "Instead of
settling conflicts it [the advancement of democracy] leads to their
escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the
growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support
for a very dubious public ranging from open neofascists to Islamic
Putin is executing his war on revolutions both on
the practical level and as a battle of ideas. For some time, he has
been building links with authoritarian powers in the Mideast. His
plans for Syria parallel the long war he fought in Chechnya up to
2009. After 9/11, Putin sold that war to the west as a common
struggle with Islamic terrorism.
Russian foreign and defense
policy council chairman Fyodor Lukyanov says Putin is trying to
build in Syria the de facto equivalent of an Alawite Israel, a
defensive secular enclave against an uncontrolled spread of the
Putin smells American weakness. If the west goes
to war alongside Putin and Assad, it will bury the Arab spring and
expose western idealism as hypocrisy.
The American school system was designed over
100 years ago. Its focus is downloading content into student minds,
with success measured by standardized tests. It is
unsuited for modern work.
You can look up any fact
on your phone. Rote tasks can be done better by computers.
Today we need to take content off center stage and emphasize the
relational skills future workers will need.
starts with three steps: basic factual acquisition, pattern
formation, and mental reformation. At this point information becomes
knowledge. After living with knowledge for years, wisdom dawns.
The cathedrals of knowledge and wisdom
are based on the foundations of factual acquisition and cultural
literacy. New technology has not changed the stairway from
information to knowledge to wisdom. Rules come first.
2015 October 16
Labour Has Lost It
The British Labour party is 90 seats short of
a functional majority in Parliament and has permanently lost 40
seats to the SNP. After the boundary review in 2018, Conservatives
will gain a further 20 to 40 seats.
Labour has to fight the
SNP in Scotland, UKIP in the north, and Conservatives in southern
England. It was in trouble even before it elected Corbyn, but now it
is clearly not a credible party of government. It has retreated into
its comfort zone and started thinking with its heart.
Economic changes have left Labour behind. The West is aging and no
longer has the growth that previously sustained its standard of
living, so austerity is permanent. The old Labour industrial class
united in solidarity has gone, replaced by individualist consumers,
for whom global brands now mean more than governments.
ESA-Roscosmos Moon Mission
European Space Agency head Johann-Dietrich
Wörner wants international partners to build a lunar base. ESA will
partner with Russian space agency Roscosmos to send a lander to the
south pole of the Moon looking for water and raw materials to
support future astronauts. Roscosmos mission Luna 27 is set for
launch in 2020.
ESA head of lunar exploration Bérengère
Houdou: "We have an ambition to have European astronauts on the
Moon. There are currently discussions at international level going
on for broad cooperation on how to go back to the Moon."
lead scientist James Carpenter: "The south pole of the Moon is
unlike anywhere we have been before. The environment is completely
different, and due to the extreme cold there you could find large
amounts of water ice and other chemistry which is on the surface,
and which we could access and use as rocket fuel or in life support
systems to support future human missions."
ESA is developing
a lander that uses cameras and a laser guidance system to sense the
terrain and decide during the approach whether the landing site is
safe. A drill 2 m long will collect samples for an onboard lab like
that on the Philae comet lander.
Mission approval is due in
2015 October 15
The Kepler Space Telescope has found
Boyajian: "We'd never seen anything like this star. It was
really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the
spacecraft, but everything checked out."
People were looking
for tiny dips in the light emitted by stars. Human cognition remains
unsurpassed in certain sorts of pattern recognition. Planet Hunters
is a program that asked citizen scientists to examine light patterns
emitted by the stars, from the comfort of their own homes. They
found an "interesting" and "bizarre" light pattern from KIC 8462852.
The pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the
star. This mess is in a tight formation big enough to block a
substantial number of photons that would have otherwise made it to
SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be
able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations by looking for
enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars.
Wright: "Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you
consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien
civilization to build."
could be a
2015 October 14
The latest round of strictures on how
individuals can present themselves comes from those who consider
themselves progressives united against the menace of cultural
From Katy Perry's adoption of geisha garb at
the 2013 American Music Awards to Lena Dunham's cornrows and their
supposed flaunting of racial identity theft, all cultural
cross-pollination now seems to be fair game for a drubbing at the
hands of the new race activists.
This rage against cultural
appropriation is understandable. Yet simply to point out instances
of appropriation in the assumption that the process is by its nature
corrosive serves no end but to essentialize race as the ultimate
component of human identity.
None of us can, or should, own
hip-hop, cornrows, or the right to wear a kimono. Appropriation
herds culture and tradition into the pen of a moral ownership like
copyright, which may suit a lawyer but jars with our human impulse
to like what we like and create new things out of it.
Appropriation tests imaginary boundaries. It questions them and
exposes the performative aspects of our racial and cultural
identity. Sometimes we have to let culture do its thing.
AR Is obsession with the Bible an
appropriation of Jewish culture?
2015 October 13
UK vs EU
UK prime minister David Cameron has been
urged to produce a formal written proposal by early November for EU
reform if he is still aiming for a deal at the December EU summit.
French finance minister Michel Sapin: "I understand that they
want a better dialogue between those in the eurozone and those that
are out. That makes sense. They want to simplify rules. We agree
too. But surely this alone can't explain the deep motivations of the
UK. We're struggling a bit there. We're not the only one in Europe."
Belgian deputy prime minister Didier Reynders: "We are ready to
discuss a lot of things. But the next step is to receive from the UK
some proposals. What are the real requests?"
2015 October 12
Lord Rose of Monewden
Those of you who know me will know
that I am not an uncritical fan of the European Union. Far from it.
That's why I signed a letter arranged by Business for Britain
calling for reform of the EU. Wanting reform, however, is not the
same as wanting to leave.
Carlo Rovelli has struck gold. This book
began life as a series of articles in an Italian newspaper. The
English edition has 83 pages. Brief but masterful expositions of
quantum mechanics, relativity, particle physics, thermodynamics, and
other fields, were translated with the help of two poets. This is
physics as romantic poetry.
Rovelli admits that he cannot
construct a clear, communicable notion of the nature of time, and
the intersection of gravity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics
has raised a tangle of problems where we are still in the dark.
Rovelli envies the youth of neuroscience, which stands now where
physics stood before Einstein.
On the deep confluence of physics and neuroscience see my book
2015 October 11
Peter Hennessy and James Jinks
covers the UK nuclear weapons firing chain from the prime minister
to the V-class submarines armed with Trident missiles.
becoming PM in 2010, David Cameron had to write his letters of last
resort for the four Trident sub commanders. Each of them has a
sealed letter from C-in-C Fleet laying down when to open the sealed
envelope from the PM.
Cameron: "I asked John Major in and
asked for his advice and I talked to him about it. I also talked to
the chiefs of staff, I talked to CDS. But then, in the end, it is
you in the office on your own. ... It is a very big moment."
In a crisis, if he is still alive, the PM starts Operation
Relentless. He needs the right people with him for briefing,
together with two officers and the cryptography to send the message
to a bunker deep beneath the Ministry of Defence building in
Former Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Sir
Frank Cooper said a British PM would never give up Britain's place
as a nuclear-weapons state as long as the memory of 1940, standing
alone, and the Battle of Britain remained fresh.
his Downing Street office: "I obviously feel the 1940 example
strongly in a lot of ways. You can't not think that just through
those doors there, this amazing decision, correct decision, was made
to fight on, and that is an electrifying thought when you're prime
His childhood home was close to the government
Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and to the nearby Ban
the Bomb peace camp outside RAF Greenham Common.
don't think Britain will give up nuclear deterrence altogether. I
think that is out. I'd be very surprised if that happened in my
lifetime. What I'm saying is that, at the moment, we have a
deterrent that is the real thing, that is the genuine article, it's
as good as it could be, it is submarine based, it's continuously at
sea and all the rest of it."
Any change of policy would
affect not only Britain but also the entire NATO alliance. Since
1963 the UK independent nuclear capability has provided NATO members
with a nuclear umbrella.
Cameron affirmed last week: "Because
our independent nuclear deterrent is our ultimate insurance policy,
this government will order four new Trident submarines."
Lawrence M. Krauss
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics goes
jointly to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald for work on
Astrophysicists detect neutrinos to look
deep into stellar interiors, such as the center of the sun or of a
supernova. In the standard model, neutrinos are massless. But if
they had a tiny mass, this might account for puzzlingly low count
rates in solar neutrino detectors.
There are three neutrino
flavors (electron, muon, tau), and a quantum theory of flavor
oscillations says that if a neutrino has a small mass, it can change
from one flavor to another as it travels through space. Each one can
convert into a particle (electron, muon, or tau lepton) when it
interacts with ordinary matter. The flavor oscillates as time
passes, so a solar neutrino changes back and forth as it travels. A
detector that counted only electron neutrinos would record low count
Toward the end of the last century, Arthur McDonald
led a team in Canada that built a detector capable of counting all
three flavors. It contained tons of heavy water, in which some of
the hydrogen atoms are replaced by deuterium. All kinds of neutrinos
could scatter off the deuterium, breaking it apart into a proton and
a neutron, and the neutrons could then be counted. The detector
counted the number of neutrinos predicted by the best solar models,
suggesting that neutrinos do oscillate.
Around the same time,
a team in Japan led by Takaaki Kajita built a detector for neutrinos
coming through atmosphere. Cosmic rays collide with air to produce
showers of particles including muon neutrinos, which scatter off
hydrogen nuclei in the detector to make muons. The detector counted
neutrinos coming straight down and neutrinos coming up through the
Earth. The rates for the two directions were different, suggesting
that neutrinos oscillate for longer on the long route.
Because standard model neutrinos are massless, the discovery of
neutrino mass flags new physics, yet to be explored.
2015 October 10
Putin vs Islamic State
After Vladimir Putin met with Barack
Obama at the UN on September 28, Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesperson Maria Zakharova spoke: "We would prefer not to have
If in the Mideast, she continued, we saw a
single example of a developing democratic state with flourishing
citizens, perhaps we might trust US proposals. Instead, we see
nothing but poverty, ruin and terrorism. It was time to collaborate on a logical strategy to
defeat Islamic State.
On September 13, on Russian state TV,
Moscow State University faculty of world politics dean Andrei
Kokoshin said US policy had reached a dead end because it was guided
by "a sacred faith in democracy, and the illusion that all
democracies will naturally be US allies".
Islamic State is at
least as grave a threat to Russian national security as to the
security of Europe. A map of the world as Islamic State would like
to see it in 2020 shows swathes of Russia in black, renamed Qoqzaz
and Khurasan. If we cannot support Russia in its mission, we should
Russia Needs Syria
The Kremlin decision to intervene in Syria was
urged on Putin this summer by senior members of his team. With the
conflict in Ukraine still unresolved and Putin increasingly isolated
by the West, intervention in the Mideast was intended to reassert
Russia as a major world power.
Putin stated at the UN in
September that Russia was committed to keeping the Assad regime in
power. A total collapse of the Syrian state would threaten its
strategic position in the Mideast. Russia views Islamic insurgents
as not only a threat to Assad but also a potential threat at home.
Russia has a long history with Syria. The Soviet Union signed a
secret pact with Syria in 1946. Syria had the largest Communist
Party in the Arab world and significant oil and gas reserves. In
1971 the Soviets leased a naval base at Tartus that now hosts a
Russia has sold arms to Syria for decades.
Moscow wrote off much old debt but sales continue. Deputy Russian
prime minister Dmitry Rogozin: "Our guys in Syria are suppressing a
war against Russia on distant plains. Anyone who does not understand
is a fool or an enemy."
Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber, as used in Syria
Apollo 17 astronaut
Apollo 14 commander
My new apartment
25 Jahre Deutsche Einheit
2015 October 9
Edward N. Luttwak
President Vladimir Putin says he is
fighting extremism in Syria. His bombing campaign has hit few
Islamic State targets. Aircraft have flown and dropped bombs, but
the Russians have no more ground intelligence in place to identify
targets than the United States has. Putin is certainly guilty of
defending the Assad regime.
Putin believes that the
president of a country should give a high priority to the
enhancement of its own power. He has two aims in Syria: Keep the
Tartus naval base that makes Russia a Mediterranean power at low
cost, and demonstrate that it really pays to serve Russia. He has
already won the credibility competition.
Putin differs from
President Barack Obama in his understanding of diplomacy. The Obama
version is that the practicalities of a transaction are less
important than their decoration with fashionably modish principles
and procedures. Everything has to go through an indecision machine
that delays actions inordinately.
When Netanyahu heard that
Putin was sending fighter-bombers to Syria, over which Israeli
fighter-bombers also operate, he asked Putin for a meeting. Putin
invited him to Moscow, where they agreed that the Russians would
telephone Yossi Cohen before taking off to bomb, while Israel would
announce flights to Nikolai Patrushev.
Putin played no games
with Netanyahu and simply conceded Israel's right to bomb in Syria.
Israeli radar can see aircraft from the moment they take off from
the Russian base. The operating rule is that when one side does any
bombing, the other side must stay on the ground. Both Putin and
Netanyahu hit their targets hard.
A computer model of a tiny piece of rat
brain fires like the real thing. The model simulates 30 micrograms
of tissue with 31,000 neurons and their 37 million synapses.
Henry Markram: "The digital piece of tissue behaved
very similarly to what we see in the brain. We see the same patterns
of firing, with the same delay."
Anil Seth: "As one of the
first concrete outputs from the billion-euro
Human Brain Project this had to be a substantial piece of work,
and it is."
2015 October 8
Russia Gets Tough
Syrian ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad said
around 40% of Islamic State infrastructure in Syria has been
destroyed since Russia began its military operation in the country.
AR At last someone has
the balls to go in there and kill the wackos before they do any
more damage. Unfortunately it will probably lead to more chaos in
the short term, not less.
Europe Gets Stronger
Three crises threaten the European Union:
the euro, Ukraine, and refugees. But the union is tackling them
together. With the possible exception of Britain, no country wants
Berlin is the power center. German Chancellor
Angela Merkel has set up an informal system of governance with
partners President François Hollande of France, European Council
president Donald Tusk, and European Commission president Jean-Claude
The euro crisis emerged five years ago. Pessimists
said it exposed a fundamental flaw in the currency union
architecture. Now Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain are
recovering, while Greece is out of critical condition. The currency
is all the stronger for it.
The Ukraine conflict has moved
from the military to the diplomatic arena. The United States has put
its weight behind the Minsk agreement. Russia has been checked,
giving Ukraine the opportunity to build a stronger state. The union
was tested and it became stronger.
The refugee crisis is a
challenge for Europe as a whole. Member states have taken a
contentious but successful vote to spread the burden of accepting
The new European Union is built around
cooperation among nation states. The German chancellor is the power
broker. Members get a framework to tackle the challenges of
Britain Gets Greater
I believe we're on the brink
something special in our country.
This year, we've seen more
people in work
Than at any time in our history;
More of our
children starting university
Than ever before;
entrepreneurs setting up shop
Than anywhere else in Europe.
Wages are rising.
Hope is returning.
We're moving into the
But we’re not there yet.
We're only halfway through.
We can make this
A defining decade for our country:
And our goal is
A Greater Britain.
With strong defence
And a strong economy.
A National Health
That's there for everybody,
stretch our children.
And over the next five years we will
That the deep problems in our society are not inevitable.
That a childhood in care
Doesn't have to mean a life of struggle.
That a stint in prison
Doesn't mean you'll get out and do the
same thing all over again.
That being black, or Asian, or female,
Doesn't mean you'll be treated differently.
Made of greater expectations.
Employees become employers,
A small island
becomes an even bigger economy,
And where extremism is defeated
once and for all.
A country raising its sights,
reaching new heights.
A Greater Britain,
Made of greater
So let's get out
And make it happen.
Together we can build
AR Dave is a great prime
2015 October 7
UK home secretary Theresa May called yesterday
for a new deportation system to eject failed asylum seekers who do
not have passports. She was accused of irresponsible rhetoric after
her hardline conference speech on cutting migrant numbers.
Failed asylum seekers will be deported from Europe
within weeks under an EU plan. More than 400,000 people who entered
the EU in the first half of this year are expected to have their
asylum claims rejected. EU border guard agency
help with deportations.
May speech headlines
Cass R. Sunstein
George Akerlof and Robert Shiller
believe that once we understand human psychology, we will be less
keen on free markets. In their view, companies exploit human
weaknesses because the market makes them do it. Those who fail to
exploit people will lose out to those who do.
Shiller say phishermen (such as banks, drug companies, real estate
agents, and cigarette companies) get phools (such as investors, sick
people, homeowners, and smokers) to behave in the interest of the
phisherman but not of the phool. In their view, phishing for phools
is the leading cause of the worst financial crises. A lot of people
run serious health risks from overeating, tobacco, and alcohol. The
resulting premature deaths are not a product of rational decisions.
Many people face debilitating financial insecurity, largely as a
result of their own mistaken decisions. Even bad government is a
product of phishing and phoolishness.
The idea that free
markets work, and that government is the problem, is itself a phish
for phools that does not capture reality. The United States has
suffered from the fact that free markets make people free not only
to choose but also free to phish, and free to be phished.
AR Even phishers are
2015 October 6
What the British people said to us in May
couldn't have been clearer. We elect you to do a job, so take
decisions, don't duck them. We’ve had our instructions from the
British people and today I announced:
revolution. We're going to allow local government to keep the rates
they collect from business. All £26 billion of business rates will
be kept by councils instead of being sent up to Whitehall. This is
the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living
Building the share owning democracy. Next Spring we
will make Lloyds shares available to every member of the public, at
a discount. Small shareholders will get priority and long-term
investors will get a bonus.
A major plan to get Britain
building. I'm not prepared to turn around to my children and say I'm
sorry we didn't build for you. So we will set up an independent
National Infrastructure Commission, sweep away planning rules on
brownfield sites, and create British Wealth Funds to invest billions
in British infrastructure.
Future favors the bold. So we've
got to be the builders, the people with the new ideas. The people
open to the new thinking. Accept when others have got it right. The
people with the plan for the future.
Some stand on the
sidelines. Some want to knock things down. But we are the builders,
building for the working people of Britain.
AR A (Stalinist?) Five Year Plan from
GO, heir apparent for the top job.
2015 October 5
Russia vs America
Russia has chosen to intervene
militarily in Syria without cooperation with the United States.
American credibility in the Mideast is at stake. US officials must
convey to Moscow the demand that it cease and desist from military
actions that affect American assets.
The Russian naval and
air assets in Syria are vulnerable, isolated from their homeland.
They could be neutralized. Or Russia might be persuaded to cooperate
in seeking a wider accommodation to a regional problem that
transcends the interests of a single state.
Britain can no longer play a decisive role in the Mideast. The
region is split on religious, political, ethnic, and territorial
lines, and slipping into more violence. This calls for outside
assistance but not for neocolonial domination. US power is needed.
AR No, NATO power is needed. We can
tame Russian power with NATO.
UK vs EU
Governments use the European Union to
bypass national democracy and pass laws that national parliaments
would reject. Home Office minister Karen Bradley said at the
Conservative party conference that representatives of other EU
member states sometimes ask British MEPs to push legislation through
the European Parliament to prevent their home legislatures from
blocking it. UKIP MEP Gerard Batten: "This is hard evidence that
this government uses the EU to undermine national democracy."
AR Surprise! Politicians misuse EU
Art vs Design
We cannot use neuroscience to explain art and
its place in our lives. Rather, art can help us frame a better
picture of our human nature.
Artists make stuff. They
sometimes make stuff that works, but its value as art never boils
down to its working. I guess artists make stuff because making stuff
is special for us. Making activities constitute us as a species.
Human beings are designers by nature. We are makers and
consumers of technologies. Tools and technologies organize us both
individually and collectively. They organize us insofar as they are
embedded in our lives.
Art begins when we are unable to take
the background of our familiar technologies and activities for
granted. Art makes things strange. Art disrupts plain looking to
disclose what plain looking conceals.
A work of art is a
strange tool. It affords us the opportunity to bring into view
everything that was hidden in the background. Art is a way of
investigating the world and ourselves.
AR I recall Alva from Tucson. He's a fine philosopher.
2015 October 4
Russians in Syria
President Vladimir Putin's government asked
America to clear air space over northern Syria. Moscow would
commence airstrikes against terrorist targets at the request of
President Bashar al-Assad.
President Barack Obama had
protested about Russian forces in Syria. Putin had said his only
intention was to neutralize Islamic State. The US military in
Baghdad agreed to hold deconfliction sessions with the Russians to
avoid mid-air collisions.
Russia is fighting to shore up
Assad. The Homs and Hama regions where Russia carried out its first
airstrikes are of vital strategic importance to the regime. They
link Damascus to the coastal area including Latakia and Tartus,
where Russia operates a naval facility.
Meanwhile hundreds of
Iranian troops arrived in apparent preparation for a ground
offensive. The Iranian soldiers include members of the elite Quds
Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and may fight alongside
Hezbollah guerrillas and Assad's forces.
Senator John McCain
blames "a total lack of American leadership" for allowing "a Russian
autocrat to join with an Iranian theocrat to prop up a Syrian
2015 October 3
An evolutionary understanding of the
emotions helps us to see other animals as individuals.
Elephants are intelligent, social, emotional, playful, and
compassionate. But their societies differ from our own. Clans of
females led by matriarchs periodically associate in larger groups.
Elephants can recognize up to a thousand individuals. Sometimes they
even bury their dead.
Dogs behave much like wolves. The best
wolves are brilliant leaders that pursue lifelong strategies in
order to lead their families to success. The similarities between
wolves and humans are arguably more extensive than those between
humans and any other animal.
Sperm whales live in clans with
distinctive dialects of sonar clicks. These are learned and act as
markers of clan identity. Clan members spend extended periods
nuzzling one another or staying in body contact. Presumably they can
memorize large social networks.
Killer whales have a
different social organization. They have a long period of lactation
and females experience menopause. Killer whales also observe food
taboos and are strongly xenophobic. Clans of salmon eaters never mix
with mammal eaters. Each clan has its own vocalizations.
Prior to the domestication of plants and the invention of writing,
the differences between human societies and those of elephants,
dogs, killer whales, and dolphins were a matter of degree, not kind.
We are not alone on Earth.
2015 October 2
Theories of Everything
Lawrence M. Krauss
When quantum mechanics is combined
with relativity, the laws that govern matter and energy depend on
the scale at which you measure them. On small scales, for short
times, there is an uncertainty in the energy and momenta of
elementary particles. Virtual particles can pop briefly in and out
of the vacuum, and to calculate the force between two particles, you
need to consider them all. There is a way to calculate the resulting
force so that it does not become infinite.
reveal connections between theories. In quantum chromodynamics the
strong force between quarks gets weaker as the quarks are brought
closer together. Since the electroweak force gets stronger at small
distances, at sufficiently small scales they may become a single
force. String theorists say even gravity merges at sufficiently
small scales with the other forces. Superstring theory may get rid
of the infinities. Some call it a theory of everything.
2015 October 1
I can recall no head of the army and no
serious academic strategist with any time for the Trident missile.
It is merely a token of support for an American nuclear response. No
modern danger, such as from terrorism, is deterred by Trident.
Trident missiles come from America and their use without
American permission is inconceivable. The decision on the related
submarine replacement program will have nothing to do with national
defense. Trident is about diplomatic clout, global posturing,
domestic grandstanding, and huge sums of public expenditure.
AR Not "merely" a token of support but
precisely that. We buy into US deterrence. This is priceless
(or rather worth a hundred billion, which comes close).
Angela Merkel held out a hand of welcome.
But Syrians fleeing barrel bombs and beheading did not need her
permission to climb into boats. The forces driving the movement of
people are heedless also of the discord between European capitals.
The challenge is immense. Populists have seized the opportunity.
No one can be surprised at their appeal to fearful Europeans.
However well the inflow is handled, stresses and dislocation are
inevitable. But you cannot build a wall around Europe.
European Union stands for cooperation. Its founding insight was that
states can best achieve their national goals by pooling sovereignty.
The logic of cooperation is as compelling as ever. But the EU
political elites have lost the trust of their citizens.
UK vs EU
I have decided to accept the position of
president of Conservatives for Britain. We will be campaigning for
the UK to leave the European Union unless there is real reform.
The EU is slow to react and resists change. Its democratic
deficit has a counterpart in a bureaucratic surplus boosted by a
belief in regulation. Creation of the United States of Europe has no
democratic mandate anywhere in Europe and is wholly unacceptable to
The integration never stops. The founding right for
people to be able to live and work freely in other EU countries now
requires integrated solutions to issues such as vetting refugees and
manning borders. Monetary union will require full fiscal and
I would set out some red lines:
1 End the automatic supremacy of EU law
over UK law.
2 Let the UK negotiate
its own free trade deals with countries worldwide.
3 Let the UK control immigration from
other EU countries.
4 Renounce the
absolute commitment to ever closer union.
AR Lawson im Klartext: Resist pan-German